Most or all of us have heard the term vegan, but was does it mean? According to “The Vegan Society” the definition is read as, “Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose”.1 On the flip side it may as well attract other dietary demographics as it promises a more cost effective and healthier options contrary to the current drawbacks of traditionally harvested meat. In the effort to create a violence free, environmentally aiding, and familiar alternative, scientists have focussed their progressive plans in branches of pertinent science including cell biology, tissue engineering, mechanical engineering, and biotechnology. Let’s explore the science behind Super Meat…
Despite the news of Super Meat being relatively recent, cell biology research has been fuelling this project for about 84 years.2 Dating back to 1912, Nobel Prize winning biologist Alexis Carell preserved a functioning (beating) chicken heart in a nutrient bath for 20 years conceptualizing cell immortality which in turn supported the continuous harvesting of tissue from a “cell bank”. Concerning the topic of Super Meat, previous developments and publications by Prof. Yaakov Nahmias, head of Super Meat research, has explored the functions of 3D printing of endothelial cells (epithelial tissue lining blood vessel and lymphatic vessel interiors) allowing the assembly of 3D liver tissue to surround them. Additionally, he presented the rapid joining of complicated vascular tissues consisted of endothelial cells, fibroblasts, and parenchymal cells. His development has charged into embedding a synthetic blood substitute into the Collagen gel, creating a way to have livers survive for days by a close-loop perfusion circuit, finding a way to increase the mitochondrial production of proteins and adipocytes by identifying a small molecule, and using a serum free culture free medium to show cell expansion to 10^16 cells(approximately 50 tons). Cell biology developed a number of efforts to formalize the tissue harvesting concept as seen in stem cell research which later became in vitro meat. A unique process developed by Super Meat researchers is detailed in a systematic series of steps first taking cells from a live chicken by biopsy (harmless). Next the cells are sent to be proliferated in a Bio-Reactor (apparatus or specified machinery that carries out a task according to the certain activity or purpose). A portion of the cells are taken from the Bio-Reactor while most continue to proliferate. Then within capsules cells arrange into an abundance of tiny muscle tissues to be placed in a meat growing machine. Over a course of 7-14 days the tissue grows with the potential of being 1kg of meat. Finally the meat is removed from the meat growing machine and replaced with a new capsule. Interestingly, the meat is cultivated in an environment akin to that of a living animal body enriching the meat with nutrients also helping the cells thrive and divide.3 The first “test tube” hamburger to be consumed was documented in 2013 leading to the gradual recognition of violence free animal products not only for cosmetic use but also consumption. Biologically the meat is identical to that of traditionally harvested meat or farmed meat as it contains the same protein and fat values delivering an exact replica. Not to mention, the environmental benefits are as such “Environmentally friendly - requires 99% less land, 90% less water, emits 90% less greenhouse gases”.3 Whether or not this aligns with the various dietary dependent communities is a controversial issue in which many discuss the morality of petri dish meat or Super Meat.4
What do you think? Is Super Meat something that the public can possibly accept as a dietary staple perhaps replacing factory methods? Please comment below.
NWCTA HOSA Member
1 V. (n.d.). Definition of veganism. Retrieved November 7, 2016, from https://www.vegansociety.com/go-vegan/definition-veganism
2 Specter, M. (2011, May 23). Test-Tube Burgers. Retrieved December 15, 2016, from http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/05/23/test-tube-burgers
3 Barak, K., Savir, I., Nahmias, Y., Friedman, S., Deutsch, N., Karchovsky, T., . . . Erlich, D. (n.d.). SuperMeat – Stop Animal Suffering! Retrieved December 15, 2016, from http://www.supermeat.com/stop.html
4 E. (2016). Is Lab Grown Meat Vegan? Retrieved November 7, 2016, from http://bitesizevegan.com/ethics-and-morality/is-lab-grown-meat-vegan/